Peacefully protesting pensioner arrested outside NSA spy base

RAF Menwith Hill base, which provides communications and intelligence support services to the United Kingdom and the U.S. is pictured near Harrogate, northern England. © Nigel Roddis
Police arrested a 74-year-old peace activist who refused to leave a protest site outside an NSA spy base in Yorkshire on Wednesday. Officers also issued an official dispersal order banning protesters from assembling there.

Lindis Percy, a founding member of Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB), was arrested by police at the Menwith Hill US listening post.

Though the base is officially called RAF Menwith Hill, most of the staff there are believed to be American employees of the NSA.

The snoop facility is part of America’s global intelligence gathering network, with at least 1,450 US civilian and military personnel thought to work there.

Percy is a former nurse, midwife and health visitor with a degree in peace studies from the University of Bradford where she studied in the late 1980s.

Speaking to the Morning Star, she said police arrived at the weekly peace vigil she and her fellow campaigners held outside the base and asked them to leave. When Percy refused, she was arrested.

North Yorkshire Police and Ministry of Defense Police have now reportedly applied a dispersal order to prevent further vigils. Percy said she will use an appearance in court on April 7 to have her say.

“I very much want this in court as it is serious. If they get away with this, it stinks,” she told the Morning Star.

In 2008, UK spy agency GCHQ produced a report claiming Menwith Hill had been tasked with monitoring drones used by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as it ramped up its military attacks on Gaza.

The NSA spy hub reportedly collected more than 20 drone videos by intercepting signals between Israeli drones and orbiting satellites.

The NSA’s internal newsletter, SIDToday, said NSA analysts had for the first time collected footage from the cockpit of an “Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jet” that showed a “target on the ground being tracked.” Menwith Hill was involved in this operation, working alongside a GCHQ base in Cyprus.

During Israel’s three-week Operation Cast Lead offensive in 2008, Human Rights Watch said dozens of Palestinians were killed in drone strikes.

In a series of diplomatic cables, published by WikiLeaks, an Israeli commander told a US State Department official that an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fired two missiles against suspected militants outside a mosque, spraying civilians with shrapnel in the process.

RT asked Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Thursday why it had shut down the weekly peace vigils at Menwith Hill, which Percy and other campaigners had been attending for some time.

The government department refused to confirm or deny whether it had issued the order and suggested a spokesperson for the NSA might be able to offer a response.

The NSA is yet to respond.